Breath tests at Garda checkpoints at record low

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Figures published by the Garda National Traffic Bureau  show 441,380 breath tests were conducted last year ”” a 4.2% reduction on the number of tests in 2012.

From the Irish Examiner

It is the lowest number of tests for drink-driving since records began in 2008, and comes at a time when there is growing criticism about enforcement levels by gardaí of road traffic legislation.

In contrast, the highest number of actual roadside checkpoints was recorded last year with gardaí staging 78,290 ”” up 9.3% on 2012 figures.

However, the number of breath tests is seen as a more reliable measure of garda enforcement levels. The average number of motorists stopped at each checkpoint fell to 5.6, against 6.4 in 2012 and 9.8 in 2010.

A more welcome development is the continuing fall in the number of motorists detected driving in excess of legal blood-alcohol limits. A total of 7,962 drivers were found under the influence in 2013 ”” a decrease of almost 17% and less than half the number detected in 2008.

In 2008, over 3% of all motorists tested were found in excess of legal limits. That fell to 1.8% last year.

John Twomey, Assistant Garda Commissioner and head of the Garda National Traffic Bureau, welcomed the figures which showed an improved compliance by motorists with road traffic legislation in recent years.

However, he expressed concern at the “alarming statistics” on the results of the Garda Christmas enforcement campaign which showed that 11 motorists were caught drink-driving on Christmas Day and a further 45 on New Year’s Day. A total of 805 drivers were arrested on suspicion of drink driving over the period.

“These are supposed to be family days when people are enjoying each other’s company yet some people are choosing to ignore repeated messages,” said Mr Twomey.

“These people put themselves and others at significant risk. It is totally unacceptable that some people continue to drink and drive.”

The 36-day Christmas enforcement period saw an average of 22 motorists arrested each day for intoxicated driving. A total of 21 road fatalities were recorded during the campaign.

Mr Twomey said the overall rise in the number of people killed on Irish roads last year ”” up 28 to 190 ”” was disappointing after so many successive years of reductions. He claimed the factors which influenced the level of road fatalities were complex but he defended Garda enforcement levels.

The number of recorded offences relating to dangerous driving, non-wearing of seatbelts, and using mobile phones decreased last year.

Mr Twomey said gardaí were targeting times and locations which were known to be higher-risk.

Gardaí also welcomed the results of speed surveys conducted using GoSafe safety cameras which showed compliance levels with speed limits have improved significantly over the past two years.

Compliance with the 50km/h limit increased from 62% in 2011 to 89% last year, while it rose from 78% to 90% in the 60km/h zones.

Compliance with the 80km/h zones are now 96% and 99% in 100km/h areas. Mr Twomey acknowledged that compliance rates would be somewhat lower outside areas where speed cameras are known to be located.